What You Need to Know About IB and AP


A world-class education is every parent's big dream for his child. An international curriculum would not only prepare his child to be academically competent and globally-minded, it would also give him competitive advantage in his chosen career or field. Today, the terms International Baccalaureate Certificate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) have become two of the strongest buzzwords among parents and educational circles. Unfortunately, many parents aspire for and enroll their children without knowing the objectives and features of IB and AP. There is also the impression that local or international schools that offer these programs are more prestigious.

As diligent and responsible parents, we must always reflect on what is most important and practical:

What does my child aim to achieve, both academically and professionally?

Which university will help him achieve his academic goals?

Where will my child attend university, here or abroad?

Which academic program will prepare him best for the chosen university and career path?

How much do we have to prepare financially to fund our child's education?

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Distinguishing IB from AP

Both the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs offer high school students the opportunity to earn college credits through challenging college-level courses and exams, but vastly differ in their objectives.


The IB’s Diploma Program is a two-year program developed in Switzerland that is designed for students from 16 to 19 years old, providing them an internationally-recognized diploma for admission into university.


The AP program, designed and run by the United States' College Board, helps high school students prepare for university by allowing them to take advanced college courses, which could either earn them college credit or qualify them for advanced classes.

To guide you further, here are the salient points that differentiate IB and AP:


While IB puts greater emphasis on the development of essay writing and critical thinking skills, AP focuses on meeting specific academic goals through subject mastery and test-taking skills. AP exams are usually characterized by multiple choice tests while IB exams require extended, research-style essays.

For students who wish to pursue IB, and yet still aim to study in local colleges, they may find difficulty in answering the college admissions tests which require test-taking and rote learning skills under time pressure. IB students are more trained in and exposed to extended research and essay writing than test-taking skills. 


AP is much more common worldwide with over 2 million students taking AP exams in 2014 as compared to IB which only attracted 135,000.

In the Philippines, AP is offered in Reedley International School, Faith Academy, and MIT International School. The IB Diploma Program is offered in British School Manila, The Beacon School, and Xavier School. Some schools also offer both programs such as International School Manila and Brent International School Manila. 


In order to earn the IB diploma and college credits, students are required to enroll in all the programmed courses and need to score high in the exams. The IB courses and exams, especially the higher-level ones, are known to be more difficult and challenging than the AP.

AP, on the other hand, offers more flexibility since students can review on their own and take an AP exam without being enrolled in any AP class.


So is it IB or AP that guarantees students admission into the world's finest universities? Which is more impressive on paper?

The answer, quite frankly, is that it depends on the university that the student is aiming for. Interestingly, the most selective universities put a premium on students who scored high in their AP or IB exams and thrived with heavier academic loads and extra-curricular programs in high school.

Students should first check the guidelines for college course credit availability of their preferred universities. Take note that while IB higher-level courses are usually accepted by colleges, standard-level IB courses are not always accepted. 


Pursuing an IB education costs more than taking AP courses. Apart from the annual registration cost of US$170 or Php 8,500, there is also a fee of US$ 720 or Php 36,000 for the six required exams. The cost of pursuing an IB program in the Philippines, compared to tuition fees without an IB program, may range from Php 350,000 to Php 1.4 Million as against Php 120,000 to Php 250,000.

AP exams would cost around US$120 or Php 6,000 per exam. Enrolling your child in the AP program would cost around US$6,000 to 7,000 or Php300,000 to 350,000, again depending on the school. 

Which is best for my child?

Choosing the best college preparation program for a student depends on his academic goals and preferred university.


For students who plan to attend and finish college in a local university, it may be impractical to pursue and aspire for an IB or AP education. To date, local colleges recognize the IB and AP programs, but do not give course credits or advanced classes for students who took them.

As for students who plan to initially attend a local university and then later enroll in a foreign college, taking AP would be the more practical choice than pursuing IB. Since most local colleges require students to pass their entrance tests under time pressure, similar to AP exams, test-taking and rote-learning skills would come in much more useful. Not only does the AP offer the flexibility of taking the exams without enrolling in any class, it also allows students to choose the subjects they are strong in than pursue a more difficult and expensive program.

For students who choose to study college abroad, pursuing either AP or IB would be a good choice as long as they first check the guidelines for college course credit availability of their preferred universities.

Reedley International School is one of only a few schools offering the Advanced Placement (AP) program in the Philippines.